incredible oaxaca and transition to independent study

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April 16th 2007
Published: April 16th 2007
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conference on free mediaconference on free mediaconference on free media

i went to this conference in oaxaca that Gustavo Esteva organized about the role of media in the APPO uprising and the need for free media. In the center is Carmen Aristeyi, a mexican newscaster on CNN espanol and a radio program. She was haled for her truthful reports during the Oaxaca conflict.
We have been traveling around the state of Oaxaca for the last 3 weeks. We were in Oaxaca city for the first week, then we went into the mountains to stay in a village called Conulalpam. After that we came back to the city for a couple days before taking off for the coast of Oaxaca, to a beach town called Mazunte.

At this moment I am back in San Cristobal, in Tierra Adentro in fact (where the zapatista encuentro was). I arrived today by bus and unpacked my things in my old host family's house.

Now begins the Independent Study Project - a one-month period where each student studies a specific topic/organization related to Grassroots Development and Social change. We'll be doing interviews, observation, and reading - but the main idea is to learn through experience. We'll write a 25 page paper and do a final presentation at the end of the period (May 18).

I have been particularly interested in microcredit (that is small loans given to individuals to start a small productive activity, following the Grameen Bank model). I want to find out for myself if it really changes these peoples' lives for the
women in Oaxaca uprisingwomen in Oaxaca uprisingwomen in Oaxaca uprising

this woman met with us in our Director's home for dinner and stories of her role in the APPO movement. She is a elementary school teacher that joined with many other women to barricade the streets and to take over a local tv station. the women still meet every tuesday, trying to visit the outlying villages to spread word of the violence that occurred at the hands of the police, and in efforts to bail out the political prisoners. One prisoner is a teenage girl, accused of attacking 5 policemen at once. She is in need of emergency eye surgery or she will lose her sight, after being hit by a policeman during a protest.
better or if they are confronted with more problems than they started with. More specifically I want to explore how their quality of life is affected in termas of economic independence, education, health, and empowerment of women. I contacted a microcredit organization called Alternativa Solidaria here in San Cristobal several weeks ago and met with their director. I contacted them again to see if I could do my ISP with them, but this time they sounded a little hesitant to commit because they already have 8 volunteers from belgium on their hands. I find out tomorrow or the next day about their final decision (after several emails and phonecalls). In the meantime I am going to keep my options open by meeting with two other microcredit organizations. keep your fingers crossed for me!

wheew, all this goes on while issues of housing and course registration at Scripps must also be figured out, as well as a phone interview for a grant application! deep breath.

I'm very excited but very nervous for this new chapter in the semester. This is really when push comes to shove to find out how I can work on my own and on such

this is my host dad (making mole sauce for an event in the next town) in the village we visited called Conulalpam, which is in the mountains of oaxaca. we were there for 3 days, learning about different community organizations, and how the village uses a parallel government to protect and operate communal goods such as land and water.
a short time period. This also means that I will probably be very absorbed in my work for the next few weeks, so lower your expectations in terms of these lovely photo-embelllished blog posts. But I'm sure the encouraging/distracting email or message from you all will help to keep my spirits up!

well, here goes nothing!

un abrazo,

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19



Juani, our Director Antonio's friend, came along with us during the Oaxaca trip. She is from San Cristobal, a mother of three daughters, and writes monthly articles for The Press Institute for Women of the Developing World. Here she is, getting a cleansing at the traditional medicine clinic in Conulalpam. the cleansing consisted of rubbing an uncracked egg over her body, swatting her with herbs, spitting rubbing alcohol on her body, and then "reading" what the yolk of the egg said. later some of us got massages and Temezcal (a sweat-lodge type treatment).
corn drinkcorn drink
corn drink

this is a drink made of milk, corn, and spices - really good! we had these at a restauarant that makes all of its foods with non-transgenic corn, that is organic traditional corn of the area that is not organically modified (a growing problem in Oaxaca)
jauni y jardinjauni y jardin
jauni y jardin

juani and the beautiful garden of the host family we stayed with in Conulalpam.
me making tortillas- from scratch!me making tortillas- from scratch!
me making tortillas- from scratch!

this consisted of waking up at 6 am to carry a bucket full of corn to the grinder in town, carrying it back in the form of dough (ground corn and water), forming the dough into balls, pressing the balls into tortillas, then cooking the tortillas over an open fire stove! wheew, and look how happy i am..
vida nueva weaving cooperativevida nueva weaving cooperative
vida nueva weaving cooperative

this is a womens weaving cooperative in Teotitlan (just outside oaxaca city). they have about 11 women who make traditional weavings for sale in order to gain funding for small community projects as well as to support themselves as single mothers and young women.
natural dyesnatural dyes
natural dyes

vida nueva makes all their dyes from natural plants. she demonstrated for us how to make shades of red-orange-purple using very few elements, principally a fungus that grows on cactus called cochinia which produces a red color when smushed.
me trying to be a weaverme trying to be a weaver
me trying to be a weaver

the yarn broke two seconds after this foto
the tapete rug I bought from vida nuevathe tapete rug I bought from vida nueva
the tapete rug I bought from vida nueva

this rug was made by the women in the foto, violeta. it took her 3 weeks to make. the symbolism on the rug means protected community and the horizontal diamonds symbolize the emotional changes in day to day life.
san juan del pacificosan juan del pacifico
san juan del pacifico

a mountain lodge we stopped in for a night on our way to the coast.
William's beach palapasWilliam's beach palapas
William's beach palapas

that last photo was the view from this deck, the beach house that our assistant director William owns. it is gorgeous. here we relaxed a lot but also visited Pina Palmera, an organizacion for handicapped people to live and to educate other families of handicapped children. and also a cooperative that makes peanut butter and tahini sauce, part of the BIOPLANETA network of cooperatives.

in the same town where we visited the peanut butter cooperative (Tomatal), the women there invited us to go to the beach to check on baby turtle eggs that they conserve through a group in the town. that day we helped 40 somehting baby turtles make their way in to the sea! (i forgot my camera, but will hunt down fotos) later, 4 of us returned to the town at night to see this amazing sight: a mother laying 91 eggs. we helped the community group protect the turtles and collect the eggs and bury them in a safe fenced area.

this is celestino, the president of the community group. this experience wasnt all rainbows and butterflies though- we really saw the reality of things when we would arrive to a freshly-dug turtle nest, where someone had already come by and STOLEN the eggs. apparently they sell for 5pesos each. we even followed the footprints of a mother turtle, and were signaled by a flashlight up ahead to go away. there is an uncanny respect between the community group and the egg robbers because oftentimes the egg robbers come armed, so there is not much we can do. oddly enough, they dont try to steal eggs that have been reburied in the fenced (unlocked) area, perhaps they recognize that those eggs could grow to be future turtles for them to steal from...

16th April 2007

Wow Maggie it looks like you have been having quite the adventure...cant wait to have you back in Seattle this summer. Love you! Em
16th April 2007

Hi Moose, You look relaxed and happy, I admire you and your adventure. Love Uncle Bill
28th April 2007

Lovely photo-embellished blog post! Gracias.

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